Ephemera: 28 October 2016: The Celtic Month Of The Reed


Yes, today, 28 October 2016 is the first day of the Celtic month of the reed, which is one of the thirteen months that comprise the ancient Celtic year.

And, ofcourse, we’re just days away from Samhain and the season of winter (and tomorrow I’ll post details about that and the end of the forthcoming Celtic year, and the start of the new year).

‘In November, some birds move away and some birds stay. The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes.’ Cynthia Rylant

Because we’re about to move into a new season, the element for the new month, and indeed for the impending season of winter, is earth.

English name: Reed
Latin name: Phragmites australis
Month: 28 October – 24 November

The Celts believed that each tree, and the reed was regarded as a tree as it has a tree-like woody stem, had great significance, and for many, the reed represented: purpose,  protection, purification, and communication.

From a practical point of view, reeds are versatile, and in the distant past the reed was used to make fast-flying arrow shafts, using them against enemies, and game for food.

Many early musical instruments were also made of a reed, and the unique sound created  haunting music that accompanied many Celtic rites of old. And, ofcourse, reeds are still used (in the mouthpieces) of some modern-day wind instruments.

‘November’s sky is chill and drear, November’s leaf is red and sear.’  Sir Walter Scott

In the past, reed used for the thatching of rooftops, and during the winter months, especially, it’s properties of protection were appreciated by ancient Celts.

From a traditional point of view, and to ancient Druids especially, the reed was revered for its connection to the elves. And, so, it was called, ‘The Elf Friend’. Some believed that if you blew across a reed and made it to emit a rasping-whistling sound, then you would summon an elf. Oh, the number of these I must have summoned them as a child, unawares, then

And a bit of very ancient history: In ancient Egypt, papyrus was made from the reed family of plants.

Even today, the (common) reed is valued. In many wetlands around the UK, they form important habitats for birds including rare and threatened species such as Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit.

‘Fear not November’s challenge bold—
We’ve books and friends,
And hearths that never can grow cold:
These make amends!’

Alexander L. Fraser

And, so it’s time to celebrate the new month of the Reed. Perhaps, light a candle? Say a prayer?  Meditate on the theme of gratitude? Go for a thoughtful walk? Have a special meal? Or, just take a few minutes of quietness to ponder the changing months and to welcome the month of the Reed.

‘The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.’ Aesop

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